A Southwark youth campaign is calling on the Met to stop sharing images of weapons seized during stop and search, saying it is creating more fear and perpetuating bad stereotypes.
One hundred student from five schools in Southwark have taken part in the campaign organised by community group Citizens UK.
The charity says after listening to the views of thousands of young people in Southwark in Southwark, the biggest issue that came up was youth violence, with the relationship between young people and the police their main concern.
At the end of November, 70 young people met with Southwark and Lambeth’s top brass, asking the Met to stop posting pictures of weapons on social media, arguing it is “counter-productive” and “incites fear and violence”.
The group say a better way to build trust would be to focus more on the positive things young people are doing in the borough.
Officers from @MPSPeckham and @MPSOldKentRoad conducted weapon sweeps on the ward and retrieved a meat cleaver from the shrubbery area of WENTWORTH CRESCENT,PECKHAM #CommunityPolicing pic.twitter.com/dEDLZN8Lqe
— Peckham Police (@MPSPeckham) February 13, 2019
The Met has made it clear it will not be censoring its work from public view, but Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Messinger, Southwark and Lambeth’s borough commander, said his team was already trying to promote engagement work, too.
“Images are posted on the Met’s social media accounts to highlight the scale of operational activity being undertaken to tackle and reduce violent crime in London and to give Londoners confidence in the effectiveness of the operational response,” he told the News.
“However, we understand that some people feel that images of weapons may not be reassuring.
“The MPS is committed to also using positive images, which is why uplifting stories and photos about police activity are regularly shared across our channels, most notably on the Met’s Instagram page: @metpolice_uk which has a bigger teenage following than our other social media channels.”
If the force did change tack, it would not be without precedent. In September, Thames Valley Police decided to stop posting images of weapons from a knife amnesty campaign.
Although there is no formal guidance on the use of social media images of seized weapons, the issue has been debated by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, after concerns it was fuelling an arms race and potentially traumatising teenage victims.
The campaign also has support from schools and churches. Sandra Schloss, the assistant priest of St Luke’s Church in Peckham said young people were “horrified” at the pictures being posted online by the police.
“Churches, schools and the community are in support of removing these images and so are working together with the young people to have them taken down,” she said.
“These images reflect a small proportion of what some young people do, and the majority are about so much more than carrying knives.”
READ MORE: Southwark News Comment – THE POLICE MUST SHARE THEIR WORK WITH THE PUBLIC